Below 40° South

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A Solo Voyage To The Dark Side of The Moon
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Progress Reports

& Blog

Progress Report #1

As I write, I’m only just back from a month in Punta Arenas, quite a lot of that spent waiting for Southern Cross to arrive in her shipping crate. She was late,and to compound the delay, the ship berthed on a Saturday so it was Monday before Howard with translator Sophia got the formalities done at Customs, and Patricio with his monster yellow truck and big crane was able to deliver the big box to us.

While a little frustrating, the time was not all wasted, We’d been searching for a place to put the crate, unload it and work on the boat. Howard had experienced some disruption to his preparations back in Michigan, and that disruption had been compounded by an accident that crushed his carefully built mizzen mast just as he was finally loading the crate with the equipment needed for the voyage. Some fast thinking and some time on the phone found the only nice piece of Sitka Spruce in the region, some fast driving and a little persuasion got it resawn into two 1 inch planks and planed to ¾, and slid into the crate before it was buttoned up and loaded for her long journey.

The broken mast with 12 hours to go before shipping was a challenge, and he had to make hard choices. Two elements crucial to his voyage had to be put aside, the unbuilt trailer he had purchased to go with the boat and a drive to pick up two boxes of provisions and some safety equipment. His choices were tough, and in the end good decisions were made. He did sling extra tools into the crate; so together with the tools that I brought with me we’d be able to convert those planks into a useable mast.

There were a number of issues needing to be solved before Southern Cross arrived. Of the bigger ones, storage for the crate, and where we could work on the boat. Our friend Mauricio at El Bodegon restaurant had offered a spot at the house where his micro brewery is situated, but access down the very skinny road was a real issue. Plus it is a long way out of town. His offer was much appreciated, but not ideal.

While awaiting the ships arrival we asked our hosts at Casa Willetu if the crate could be left on the roadside outside their hotel while we unloaded it. We were delighted when they offered storage down the driveway next to the new apartment that is being remodeled for owners Yvette and Carlos. They also offered the use of a covered breezeway between two parts of their establishment to store the little boat and work on her. In Punta Arenas weather is a wild daily affair and the covered storage area was more like a full “galeway” rather than a “breezeway,” but it kept the rain off, and had a gate for security. It was ideal. Thanks so much “Willetu Rent a Home”. Recommended by the way.

Next issue. One of those puzzles that seemingly had no real satisfactory solution. Punta Arenas has next to no recreational boating. There is no marina. All the wharf space is for full sized ships, and the anchorage is very exposed. Where to put Southern Cross when she went into the water?

To follow the winds that Southern Cross will be experiencing, drag the little circle to the location that we show in progress reports and the box to your left will give you wind speed and direction. It also shows what's coming, most of which will be out in the Pacific which is the to the left of the screen. There is limited zoom as well, but do bear in mind that this only shows the overall conditions and not what is happening when that wind funnels down valleys, or through between headlands, that can be much stronger.

Weather forecasts for the Cape Horn area:,-53.11,2842/loc=-80.862,-51.813

This will apply for perhaps 100 miles or so north of the cape, but do bear in mind that where he begins his voyage in the Straits of Magellan is a very long way from there. If you wish to pick up the forecast for Punta Arenas just enter it in the search box.

A cruising guide with background, there is a lot of interesting reading here from people who’ve been in the area. Much information on climate, sailing conditions, passages and the best time of year to make them, rules and regulations etc.

We were extremely fortunate to find the Nao Victoria Museum with its incredible full sized replica ships and its tiny sheltered anchorage, Juan, the owner, proved a very generous and hospitable host allowing us to use his workshop and his grounds, and the little estuary made a cozy home for Southern Cross while the last preparations were completed.

The peoples of Terra del Fuego are of particular interest to our skipper, and the remains of their ancient settlements are among those things that he will be searching out on his voyage. At one time there were several quite distinct tribal and racial groups living in this land, bleak and hostile that it appears to us, they thrived until the Europeans came with guns, disease and alcohol. As a People they’re extinct today, but the remains of their existence are still there for those who wish to search.

This is a rough land, mountainous and heavily scoured by glaciers and rivers. There are thousands of islands and reefs along the wet Pacific coast, and there is snow on the tops all year around. It’s a cold, harsh land, but surprisingly rich in its flora and fauna, especially the marine life. Of particular interest are the Micro Forests of the deep south, trees and shrubs require nutrients, , water, warmth, and sunlight to grow, and in the region of Cape Horn only water is plentiful. However a unique biosphere has evolved there, fragile, only found in tiny pockets of shelter from the winds, but clinging to life nevertheless.

There is a book on Google books, accessible “free” if one searches for it as “The micro forests of Cape Horn.” It has many photographs of the astonishing variety of life there, and is a very interesting read. Much of the area in which Southern Cross will be sailing is National Park, or UNESCO protected biosphere. There is a lot of information on these regions in the links below.

Punta Arenas. We enjoyed Punta Arenas, experienced incredible hospitality from the local people, marvelled at the architecture, rode the ferry across to Porvenir on the main island of Tierra del Fuego, felt the cold and wind at times, and even though we had only a little Spanish between us once Sophia our translator went home, we managed to communicate well enough to avoid most misunderstandings. Punta Arenas is a rapidly growing city, has now a population of around 150,000, good hotels, lots of backpackers lodges, good food, and magnificent scenery within a short distance.

Its an interesting place!

SailingDavid Nichols